Over 20 years before starting his own beverage consultancy company Italspirits and launching Italicus – Rosolio di Bergamotto, Giuseppe Gallo started his career as many in this business with studying Hospitality management. After that he worked his way up as a Bartender and Bar Manager before becoming Global Brand Ambassador for an International Vermouth brand in 2009. In his seven years in this position he not only had a lead role in bringing Vermouth to where it is today, but also was awarded Best International Brand Ambassador at Tales of the Cocktail 2014.
Being born and raised at the Amalfi Coast in south Italy, Gallo is considered one of the, if not THE leading expert in Italian spirits, bitters and liqueurs. With his small but passionate team at Italspirits he works for brands like Peroni, Luxardo, Martini, Amaro Montenegro and many more. But the most personal of the brands in his portfolio is his own: Italicus – the reincarnation of the once famous italian category of Rosolio. Today we have the chance to ask Giuseppe some questions – on Italicus, himself and italian aperitivo culture.
Perola: You’re coming from a gastronomy family where cooking played a huge role in everyone’s life – was there ever a chance you could have become a cook or was it always beverages first?
Giuseppe: Cooking is still my main hobby and I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, but professionally I have always preferred a job that allows me to be in direct contact with people. I don’t see myself working in a close room or environment, so I don’t think I could have been a cook.
Perola: You work in the spirits business for over 20 years in different roles and more and more became a key figure in the Renaissance for Vermouth and Italian spirits as a whole. How did your personal taste change in all that time? Were you already in „full bitter mode“ when starting your hospitality career?
Giuseppe: As all Italian people, I have grown up drinking bitter flavours (like coffee) and my palate was always used to it. Negroni or Americano are very popular in Italy, but only recently have been rediscovered by the rest of the world.
Perola: While Italicus is not completely made like in your family recipe it definitely played a huge part in the process of developing italicus as we read. Can you tell us, what the biggest differences are to the recipe of your ancestors?
Giuseppe: The recipe from my family was the inspiration but ITALICUS has a completely different flavour profile, much more complex and sophisticated.
Perola: For making Italicus a liqueur you use brown sugar instead of refined one. What advantages has had for the spirit?
Giuseppe: Since we have decided to make a Rosolio, in order to respect the tradition we have to use brown sugar. On top of this, brown sugar gives to the liquid a more liquorice aftertaste.
Perola: You use lots of very rare and special ingredients from all over Italy for Italicus: bergamot from Calabria, cedro from Sicilia and beyond that camomile, lavender, gentian … How hard was it to find the right places and people for all those things? Was there a botanical in the original recipe you had to cut, because you couldn’t find it or in the other way: did you add one of those botanicals beyond the fixed recipe, because you were amazed by it’s taste or smell?
Giuseppe: ITALICUS is based on the Rosolio di Torino recipe and we have tried whatever possible to respect the original recipe, but crafting it with a modern flavour profile, given by the bergamot citrus fruit, which was little difficult to find due to the rarity of the fresh fruit. Bergamot has been a very popular flavour in parfume and gastronomy world in the last few years and we believed that there was an opportunity for it in the spirits industry as well.
Perola: Rosolio classicaly is a rose petal liqueur – while they are in Italicus and a fine nose can filter out their aroma, the lead role of the botanicals was given to the bergamot. Was this clear from the beginning or did you also experiment with more floral versions?
Giuseppe: Rosolio is not classified as Rose petal liquor : this is a wrong information spread throughout the internet. Our main mission is to educate people on the Rosolio category, starting from its name, which actually comes from the Latin “ros solis”, meaning “sun dew”.
Perola: You once mentioned in another interview you found the recipe for the rosolio di torino in the book Il Liquorista practico from 1894. How much of this recipe found its way into Italicus?
Giuseppe: It is one of the 3 main extracts that define ITALICUS final recipe.
Perola: Are there any other interesting old recipes slumbering in there that you would like to work with?
Giuseppe: There are old categories I would like to work with, but not old recipes. We can take inspiration from the past, but we have to craft the information we have and add a modern flavour profile to it, in order to give life to an interesting brand.
Perola: Was the Sfumatura method you use for infunding the botanicals also something mentioned in the book or is that something you discovered somewhere else?
Giuseppe: Sfumatura is a classic method to extract essential oils from the citrus fruits and it was used in the past to make Rosolio. This is why we have decided to follow the same technique that our ancestors used.
Perola: Aperitivo culture is something that we in germany have to learn first (we do, but slowly), as here a dinner in most families is 20 minutes of eating and then doing dishes. If I wanted do the perfect aperitivo evening at home, what would I need to buy and do?
Giuseppe: While you are cooking or preparing a meal, make an easy/light cocktail, a few canapes and enjoy the drink before your dinner.
Perola: When doing research about Italicus, one stumbles upon the stories of young Giuseppe making limoncello with his mother. Can you share with us the secret to a perfect homemade limoncello?
Giuseppe: I come from the Amalfi coast : every family there owns their own lemon trees, and once per year they gather to make limoncello. The secret behind a perfect homemade limoncello are the ingredients : It is all about the quality of the lemons and not the recipe.
Perola: As an expert in italian spirits, what would you say are the five bottles a homebar owner should stock, if he wants to be ready for an italian cocktail evening?
Giuseppe: Vermouth, Amaro, Rosolio, Bitter Aperitivo and Barolo Chinato
Perola: Last question and a very personal one, indeed: As an italian and more importantly an italian bartender: Are you one of the few people in the world who liked their very first negroni?
Giuseppe: Yes, I am indeed.